Skip navigation.

QA, Testing... what's the difference?

general software testing | project management | test management
[textile]I believe that much of our time is wasted by using inconsistent terminology... I also believe that we sometimes put "ticks in boxes" for a (false) sense of security... so what has this got to do with QA, Testing and so-called "QA Testing"?

I summarised this today as follows:

* Quality Assurance - Prevention of faults by inspecting & testing the process

* Quality Control - Detection of faults by inspecting & testing the product

If you are in Software Testing, you probably spend most of your time testing products (the software, documents etc) - i.e. Quality Control... how many of you are testing the process?... Just because you're a software tester, are you qualified to test the process?

How do you Inspect and Test the Process...
You might inspect the process by auditing what people are doing and ensure they are within guidelines, frameworks or following your (agile) processes... also, making sure that, when cutting corners, the benefits and the risks have been considered... You might test the process by, for example, error seeding to see how effective the testing (Quality Control) processes are.

How do you Inspect and Test the Product(s)...
As you generate artifacts through the SDLC, these can be inspected (e.g. on the fly as in Pair Programming) and/or tested (e.g. with automated acceptance tests)...

The term "Quality Control" comes from more mature industries that would discard a product or correct its faults (if possible) if it fails certain tests... it isn't really "Control" because all it does is provide information... it is the information that facilitates decision making - hence providing controls... In some industries, these decisions are more easily determined from the outcome of tests... we all know that this isn't always so clear with software...



So how did this happen?
How has the term "QA Testing" come about if the two activities of "QA" and "Software Testing" are clearly not the same? Here is my theory...

Some people refer to Software Testing as QA because a lot of other people do - so why not? It doesn't really matter does it? As long as we all know what we are talking about... If this is done concsiously and all participants are clear that they aren't doing a complete QA job (just by testing) - then that is actually OK IMHO.

Others, however, use the term "QA" synonymously with "Software Testing" because they may not know any better (see my remarks about Phil Crosby's Quality and S-E-X analogy).

Most people would agree that, in building anything, QA is a good thing (as in managing the delivery of appropriate quality and risk - not enforcing dogmatic processes)...

So, we all want a tick in the "I am doing QA" box... Many do this by saying "QA" instead of "Software Testing" - remember Software Testing is one aspect of "Quality Control" in the SDLC... perhaps because we don't know any better? Perhaps our experience is that testing is what QA is all about?...

Then there was "QA Testing"
It seems that the term "QA Testing" was born from those who knew no better, referring to teams performing non-developer testing as "QA Teams"... so as to distinguish between developer-testing and (errmm...) Tester-Testing? Perhaps because in some (or even many) organisations, the "QA Testers" were former users rather than software engineers... This in itself, I believe, came about again - through assumptions made about testing... by the manager who "has a play" with the application and thinks that this is all there is to testing because that is his/her experience... again see my remarks about Phil Crosby's Quality and S-E-X analogy - I am considering referring to the enlightened tester as "Tantric Testers" :-)

My Conclusion
Unfortunately, all of these assumptions that people make, based on limited experience, seems to have resulted in many people putting a tick in the "I am doing QA" box when in fact they aren't really doing QA...

I believe in accepting realities... If I am not doing something I could be doing to improve the quality of my work - then there is usually a good reason for it!

I won't sweep it under the carpet though... I will be honest and open about what I am not doing and why... but I will never put my head in the sand and pretend that there aren't risks... if we know the risks, we are forewarned... if we are forewarned, we are forearmed... in my experience, that makes for a more successful software development project.

JMHO!

Don't know where QA/Testing Team fit with Agile Development Team

TrackBack from testingReflections.com:

Could it be that you didn’t know where they fit in before? Could it be that giving the software to someone to test was just something you had to do to get a tick-in-a-box? A tick in the ‘someone else has tested it’ box? Did you ever r

The eternal QA vs. Testing debate

TrackBack from testingReflections.com:

In I’m a Tester, Jim, not a QA Engineer! Micahel, a.k.a. the “Braidy Tester” covers an issue that I recently covered in my post

RE: QA ans Testing

Submitted by Alexander Podelko on Mon, 11/10/2004 - 20:09. Is QA just creation/modification the process? I believe it the execution of the process too... Testing is the part of the process, so it is a part of QA. My understanding is that QA is a broader term including testing. If we take that approach, QA Tester is a valid title - a person doing testing part of QA, isn't it?
[textile] Programming is also part of the process... so why not have QA Programmers? This definition falls down because we are all part of the process... developers, project managers, architects and testers ... and so on... "Quality Assurance" is a label and shouldn't be taken as litterally as it reads... it is greater than the sum of its parts... We, in Software Development, have redefined the term and use it in a completely different way to any other industry (as far as I am aware)... QA is about testing and inspecting the process (not the products) whether it is in manufacturing or healthcare. If you are performing this role, because you happen to be the best person to do it in your context, this means you are not in a "tester" role while doing that work and you have taken on a different role - i.e. QA... Perhaps this is where people get confused... between job-title and the multiple roles we fulfil that aren't reflected in our job titles?... If that is the case - I would have no problem with "QA/Tester" as a job title if the roles that I performed were either "QA" or "Testing"... The two are not synonymous and this is achoed by numerous recognised experts in software testing (see SW-test-discuss topica mailing lists and the agile-test yahoo mailing list). Antony Marcano

QA ans Testing

Is QA just creation/modification the process? I believe it the execution of the process too... Testing is the part of the process, so it is a part of QA. My understanding is that QA is a broader term including testing. If we take that approach, QA Tester is a valid title - a person doing testing part of QA, isn't it?

Rebranding testing...

[textile]
Has the title "QA Tester" been created as a disguise or security blanket?”
Dana, You have raised a valid point and one that I didn't think to include... This should be included in my list of potential reasons (the next time I talk or write about this)... This is sort of a sub-category of "we know it isn't QA but we are calling it that anyway"
Testing has been thought of in a negative manner. Maybe the “QA tester” title has been created to try and remove some of the negative connotation of testing.
Although I think the reasoning behind this is a valid one and applicable to many cases, I think the choice of "QA Testing" is the not in the best long-term interests of software development. If we conciously decide to rebrand "testing" due to others' negative experiences, why use "QA" - why not use a more applicable team... like "Software Validation Team" or "Software Verification" - or even VV&T - "Validation, Verification & Testing" (which is what they call it at a large telecommunications firm that I worked for once)? Should we accept predjudice based on people's negative experience or prove it wrong by being pragmatic and constructive in our attitudes? Should we give up and rebrand or should we collectively attempt to re-educate the market? What is easier, building the brand or saving the brand... Thanks to Test Driven Development, the term "Testing" is becoming 'sexy' so I am thinking that it will be an easier task to re-educate the market rather than to invent a whole new brand (although Brian Marick is trying to with 'Example Driven Development":http://www.exampler.com/ ). I don't know the answers but I think that using the term "QA" for something that isn't "QA" causes more problems than it solves. When people misunderstand this to mean that they are doing QA when they aren't... they may be denying themselves the opportunity of harnessing the benefits of true QA... I accept responsibility for any of my short-comings... but what I avoid is taking the responsibility for short-comings forced on me by constraints created by others... what I will do is adivse on the risks and do the best that I can within those constraints... To end on a positive note... I chuckled to see you use my phrase "Tantric Testers"... I will write something else about that very soon :-) Antony Marcano

QA Testers

Antony,

Your post makes me ask the question – Has the title “QA Tester” been created as a disguise or security blanket?”

Testing has been thought of in a negative manner. Maybe the “QA tester” title has been created to try and remove some of the negative connotation of testing. Then again some companies are following the process of creating documentation (do not get me wrong, plan the work and work the plan – in context) to support the testing process. Some companies are spending as much “time testing products (the software, documents etc)” as they are structuring the tests. The buzzword “process” could be causing the word association problem.

I agree that limited experience both in with non-tantric testers and management has developed the “QA Tester” title. In addition, I agree most “QA Testers” are former users or the person in the seat that can validate a system.
Those of us that are “tantric or professional testers” know the difference and need to continue educating and accepting responsibility for our short comings.

Another great example of a testing mass movement

"Some people refer to Software Testing as QA because a lot of other people do - so why not?"

Well articulated and better formed then my rant. This is a great example of what I was referring to in my blog.

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click 'Save settings' to activate your changes.